NC(1) BSD General Commands Manual NC(1)
nc — arbitrary TCP and UDP connections and listens
nc [-46DdhklnrStUuvzC] [-i interval] [-P proxy_username] [-p source_port] [-s source_ip_address] [-T ToS]
[-w timeout] [-X proxy_protocol] [-x proxy_address[:port]] [hostname] [port[s]]
The nc (or netcat) utility is used for just about anything under the sun involving TCP or UDP. It can open TCP
connections, send UDP packets, listen on arbitrary TCP and UDP ports, do port scanning, and deal with both IPv4
and IPv6. Unlike telnet(1), nc scripts nicely, and separates error messages onto standard error instead of
sending them to standard output, as telnet(1) does with some.
Common uses include:
· simple TCP proxies
· shell-script based HTTP clients and servers
· network daemon testing
· a SOCKS or HTTP ProxyCommand for ssh(1)
· and much, much more
The options are as follows:
-4 Forces nc to use IPv4 addresses only.
-6 Forces nc to use IPv6 addresses only.
-D Enable debugging on the socket.
-d Do not attempt to read from stdin.
-h Prints out nc help.
Specifies a delay time interval between lines of text sent and received. Also causes a delay time
between connections to multiple ports.
-k Forces nc to stay listening for another connection after its current connection is completed. It is an
error to use this option without the -l option.
-l Used to specify that nc should listen for an incoming connection rather than initiate a connection to a
remote host. It is an error to use this option in conjunction with the -p, -s, or -z options. Addi‐
tionally, any timeouts specified with the -w option are ignored.
-n Do not do any DNS or service lookups on any specified addresses, hostnames or ports.
Specifies a username to present to a proxy server that requires authentication. If no username is spec‐
ified then authentication will not be attempted. Proxy authentication is only supported for HTTP CON‐
NECT proxies at present.
Specifies the source port nc should use, subject to privilege restrictions and availability. It is an
error to use this option in conjunction with the -l option.
-q after EOF on stdin, wait the specified number of seconds and then quit. If seconds is negative, wait
-r Specifies that source and/or destination ports should be chosen randomly instead of sequentially within
a range or in the order that the system assigns them.
-S Enables the RFC 2385 TCP MD5 signature option.
Specifies the IP of the interface which is used to send the packets. It is an error to use this option
in conjunction with the -l option.
-T ToS Specifies IP Type of Service (ToS) for the connection. Valid values are the tokens “lowdelay”,
“throughput”, “reliability”, or an 8-bit hexadecimal value preceded by “0x”.
-C Send CRLF as line-ending
-t Causes nc to send RFC 854 DON'T and WON'T responses to RFC 854 DO and WILL requests. This makes it pos‐
sible to use nc to script telnet sessions.
-U Specifies to use Unix Domain Sockets.
-u Use UDP instead of the default option of TCP.
-v Have nc give more verbose output.
If a connection and stdin are idle for more than timeout seconds, then the connection is silently
closed. The -w flag has no effect on the -l option, i.e. nc will listen forever for a connection, with
or without the -w flag. The default is no timeout.
Requests that nc should use the specified protocol when talking to the proxy server. Supported proto‐
cols are “4” (SOCKS v.4), “5” (SOCKS v.5) and “connect” (HTTPS proxy). If the protocol is not speci‐
fied, SOCKS version 5 is used.
Requests that nc should connect to hostname using a proxy at proxy_address and port. If port is not
specified, the well-known port for the proxy protocol is used (1080 for SOCKS, 3128 for HTTPS).
-z Specifies that nc should just scan for listening daemons, without sending any data to them. It is an
error to use this option in conjunction with the -l option.
hostname can be a numerical IP address or a symbolic hostname (unless the -n option is given). In general, a
hostname must be specified, unless the -l option is given (in which case the local host is used).
port[s] can be single integers or ranges. Ranges are in the form nn-mm. In general, a destination port must be
specified, unless the -U option is given (in which case a socket must be specified).
It is quite simple to build a very basic client/server model using nc. On one console, start nc listening on a
specific port for a connection. For example:
$ nc -l 1234
The example in the previous section can be expanded to build a basic data transfer model. Any information input
into one end of the connection will be output to the other end, and input and output can be easily captured in
order to emulate file transfer.
Start by using nc to listen on a specific port, with output captured into a file:
$ nc -l 1234 > filename.out
Using a second machine, connect to the listening nc process, feeding it the file which is to be transferred:
$ nc host.example.com 1234 < filename.in
After the file has been transferred, the connection will close automatically.
TALKING TO SERVERS
It is sometimes useful to talk to servers “by hand” rather than through a user interface. It can aid in trou‐
bleshooting, when it might be necessary to verify what data a server is sending in response to commands issued
by the client. For example, to retrieve the home page of a web site:
$ echo -n "GET / HTTP/1.0\r\n\r\n" | nc host.example.com 80
Note that this also displays the headers sent by the web server. They can be filtered, using a tool such as
sed(1), if necessary.
More complicated examples can be built up when the user knows the format of requests required by the server. As
another example, an email may be submitted to an SMTP server using:
$ nc [-C] localhost 25 << EOF
Body of email.
It may be useful to know which ports are open and running services on a target machine. The -z flag can be used
to tell nc to report open ports, rather than initiate a connection. For example:
$ nc -z host.example.com 20-30
Connection to host.example.com 22 port [tcp/ssh] succeeded!
Connection to host.example.com 25 port [tcp/smtp] succeeded!
The port range was specified to limit the search to ports 20 - 30.
Alternatively, it might be useful to know which server software is running, and which versions. This informa‐
tion is often contained within the greeting banners. In order to retrieve these, it is necessary to first make
a connection, and then break the connection when the banner has been retrieved. This can be accomplished by
specifying a small timeout with the -w flag, or perhaps by issuing a "QUIT" command to the server:
$ echo "QUIT" | nc host.example.com 20-30
220 host.example.com IMS SMTP Receiver Version 0.84 Ready
Open a TCP connection to port 42 of host.example.com, using port 31337 as the source port, with a timeout of 5
$ nc -p 31337 -w 5 host.example.com 42
Open a UDP connection to port 53 of host.example.com:
$ nc -u host.example.com 53
Open a TCP connection to port 42 of host.example.com using 10.1.2.3 as the IP for the local end of the connec‐
$ nc -s 10.1.2.3 host.example.com 42
Create and listen on a Unix Domain Socket:
$ nc -lU /var/tmp/dsocket
Connect to port 42 of host.example.com via an HTTP proxy at 10.2.3.4, port 8080. This example could also be
used by ssh(1); see the ProxyCommand directive in ssh_config(5) for more information.
$ nc -x10.2.3.4:8080 -Xconnect host.example.com 42
The same example again, this time enabling proxy authentication with username “ruser” if the proxy requires it:
$ nc -x10.2.3.4:8080 -Xconnect -Pruser host.example.com 42
Original implementation by *Hobbit* ⟨firstname.lastname@example.org⟩.
Rewritten with IPv6 support by Eric Jackson ⟨email@example.com⟩.
UDP port scans will always succeed (i.e. report the port as open), rendering the -uz combination of flags rela‐